"IF THERE WASN'T A TRON, THERE WOULDN'T HAVE BEEN A TOY STORY" @ 14 April 2011 10:15 PM
So says John Lasseter in one of the many bonus features on the Tron and Tron:Legacy five-disc combo set, containing a Blu-ray and DVD each of 1982's Tron and the recent Tron: Legacy, plus a digital download disc of the latter. (You can also get each film separately, but why unless you have the earlier DVD and don't want Blu-ray?)



Lasseter's quote comes from what are billed as the "original DVD features" that were included in the much-sought-after first DVD release of the original Tron, which Disney did not reissue until now. Turning away what might have been a great amount of profit, the studio withheld the original film from reissue when the new film premiered, reportedly to avoid what might have been assumed as technical comparisons from the 1982 movie to the shiny new 2010 one.

They needn't have worried much, but it didn't seem to matter in the long run, because today both films are among the best sellers in the DVD market. And even though they don't compare well when judged primarily by special effects standards, they actually both stand together better than expected.

Steven Lisberger's Tron is still one of the most unique films to come from Disney or any other studio, now as well as then. There is simply nothing exactly like it, including Tron: Legacy, which is undeniably a tribute in its basic look, but also resembles a good many current big-screen special effects extravaganzas.

There's no way that modern filmmakers would replicate what is very much a product of its era in scope and resources, and Tron: Legacy is lightyears beyond its predecessor in astonishing visuals. And like the original, the sheer, overwhelming proponderance of eye-filling sights leave little room for characters, though both tried valiantly. Tron: Legacy has the lion's share of labor, having to survive comparisons to its predecessor and reconcile two storylines, all the while relaunching a franchise that has been like shining gold in a locked treasure chest for decades.

On the third point, Tron: Legacy succeeds extremely well. Like Star Trek, which transformed from a canceled network series with high ambitions and vision that transcended its limited sets and effects and built on itself through new incarnations, Tron was a great idea that occurred before the medium could handle it and even Disney didn't know what to really do with it for almost three decades -- though perhaps now has come into its own.

The key was to catapult the franchise, and Tron: Legacy hit the mark. The animated version previewed on the disc is just one piece of the pie; a high-tech dance party called ElecTronica at Disney's California Adventure Park is another; and apparently the merchandise is already doing well

Bruce Boxleitner and Jeff Bridges appear in both films, a plus for fans, though clearly many enthusiasts do miss Cindy Morgan (who appears on the earlier bonus features). Rather than relying on star power to sell the new film (and jeopardize sequels with high contractual demands), Disney wisely gave Garrett Hedlund and Olivia Wilde a high-profile showcase. Wilde -- who has already distinguished herself superbly on TV's House, is especially impressive -- she is a scifi icon in the making, along the lines with Star Trek: The Next Generation's Seven of Nine.

What's especially fascinating about Tron, though, is the road entertainment and effects took between the two films, which can be traced on the bonus features (though the earlier Tron DVD set did have a few more, so keep your old one if you have it). It was an influential film that inspired countless viewers, especially those within the film and video industry.

Both films make good use of the clarity of Blu-ray. The only missing feature is a new commentary track. But we can still hear the comments on the original film by Lisberger himself, who seems to have been welcomed into the new production by the new creative team.

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